Hungary's artists take fury at media law to Brussels

Hungarian writers and musicians have descended on Brussels to add their voices to a fast-growing chorus of criticism aimed at measures being introduced by their Prime Minister Victor Orban.

The outcry centres on a new media law that opponents say will muzzle press freedom and endanger independent media.

The EU has been piling pressure on Hungary to review the bill, which came into force on 1 January, the same day that the country took up the reins of the rotating EU Presidency.

Adam Fischer, one of the world's leading conductors, stood down at the end of last year as music director at the Hungarian State Opera in protest at the increasingly heavy and restrictive hand of government.

"A lot of the attention has focussed on the new law but the problems run far deeper," he told journalists gathered at La Monnaie, the Belgian opera house. "Even more worrying are changes to the national constitution that are being drafted and the rise of anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia in Hungarian society,"

Mr Fischer pointed to the latest "attack" in which Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff became the butt of anti-Semitic remarks in a national newspaper after he wrote a column criticising new government measures. "Hungary is not like other EU countries. Things like anti-Semitic graffiti are tolerated. Attitudes are changing and extremist views taking hold."

Since winning last April's elections with a landslide victory, Mr Orban's populist Fidesz party has modified the constitution several times to fit its political aims and it has limited the powers of the country's top court. Mr Orban is also blamed for appointing party loyalists to key watchdog positions for unusually long terms.

At the European Parliament, up the road from La Monnaie, more Hungarian artists were gathered to sound the alarm over the new media law.

Hungarian author Miklós Haraszti said that in setting out the "tasks" of media in Hungary, the government was taking a step "unprecedented in Europe". "The law also removes the tenet of pluralism and replaces it with a monolithic task," he said. Others pointed to the importance of upholding press freedom in a country that has been under the yoke of Soviet rule for decades.

Mr Orban took a combative stance towards his international critics last week, saying it was "an insult" for countries like France and Germany to point the finger of blame at a bill of which they knew nothing. He has softened in recent days, admitting that it had been a "bad start" to his country's EU Presidency. "We want to diminish the political weight of this conflict," he said, but stressed that he sees no need to review the law.

Yesterday, Neelie Kroes, the EU's Digital Communications Commissioner, reminded Mr Orban of his pledges to "make adjustments" if EU experts find the law falling short of "full respect of the European values on media freedom". The European Commission is currently examining the text.

However, George Schoepflin, a Hungarian MEP from Mr Orban's Fidesz Party, said the debacle smacked of "double standards". He warned of the possible backlash among Hungarians against criticism from outsiders. "Hungary has been buried under a media avalanche which is entirely out of control. It will strengthen Euro-scepticism. It will persuade many Hungarians that EU slogans on solidarity are empty and do not apply to them."

Last week, several Hungarian and foreign former anti-communist dissidents signed an open letter to the EU and the bloc's 27 governments, voicing their concern over recent political developments.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style